‘Light and Language’ and Lismore Castle Arts

In order to support the health and well-being of our visitors and staff, and in line with recommendations from public health officials regarding COVID-19, the exhibition Light and Language: Nancy Holt with A.K. Burns, Matthew Day Jackson, Dennis McNulty, Charlotte Moth, and Katie Paterson will now open in Spring 2021.

We are extremely happy to be partnering with Lismore Castle Arts on this exhibition. Exact dates will be announced in November 2020.

Light and Language unites the work of pioneering American land artist Nancy Holt with five global contemporary artists whose practices have been influenced by Holt’s oeuvre and theories. In bringing together past and present, the exhibition traces the indelible legacy of Holt. Nancy Holt was an artist who rethought the limits and possibilities of art. Born in 1938, Holt was a key member of the Earth, Land and Conceptual art movements. For five decades she asked difficult questions about how we understand our place in the world. Her art continues to inspire and recalibrate the possibilities of what art can be, and where it can be found.

Holt’s influence on artists working today is palpable. Light and Language invites A.K. BurnsMatthew Day JacksonDennis McNultyCharlotte Moth, and Katie Paterson to explore ideas of light and language alongside Nancy Holt at Lismore Castle Arts, one of Ireland’s leading spaces for experimental contemporary art. This is the first time Holt’s work has been seen with twenty-first-century artists who have drawn from her legacies.

Lismore Castle Arts hosts exhibitions of international significance alongside a comprehensive education program. Stretching from Lismore Castle’s gallery spaces, through the cultivated castle gardens, and into the surrounding everyday life of the town of Lismore, the six artists in Light and Language pay attention to key concepts we use to find our place in the world. Both light and language are often taken for granted, yet they structure everything around us.

At the center of Light and Language is Holt’s room-sized installation Electrical System (1982), seen above. Presented for the first time in more than three decades, Electrical System is an example of Holt’s innovative ‘systems sculptures’ that make the facts of a building perceivable. In Holt’s words: “the electrical systems light, the heating systems heat. The drainage systems drain, the ventilation systems circulate air […] the sculptures are exposed fragments of vast hidden systems, they are part of open-ended systems, part of the world.” Formed of over one-hundred glowing lightbulbs, Electrical System is a network of light.

Fourteen other rarely seen works by Holt join Electrical System. They span 1966 through to 1982 and range from concrete poetry, to photographic experiments with light and shadow, works relating to her iconic earthwork Sun Tunnels (1973-76), and her video collaboration with Richard Serra, Boomerang (1974). Within the castle grounds and Lismore town are Holt’s Locators that, as she described, are “literally seeing devices” simultaneously focusing, extending, and showing the limits of vision.

The five artists joining Nancy Holt in Light and Language, like Holt, open new questions about perception and the way we might understand our place in the world. Working with sound, sculpture, performance, words, and light, each artist has chosen works for the exhibition they feel resonate with their fascinations for Holt’s ideas and artworks.

In the galleries A.K. Burns (b. 1975, USA) presents an evocative film of a total solar eclipse, while in the castle grounds a pair of sculptures made from mangled and painted chain-link fencing stand face to face. Matthew Day Jackson’s (b. 1974, USA) Commissioned Family Photo (2013) comprises eighty-two photographs taken with a camera capable of capturing over a million frames per second. It was designed to record explosions and shockwaves from nuclear detonations; the artist and his family are the only human beings ever to have been photographed by this camera. Dennis McNulty (b. 1970, Ireland) also works with technology. He presents a live performance working with samples of Nancy Holt’s voice in the video Boomerang with a mesh of sounds. Charlotte Moth (b. 1970, England) and Katie Paterson (b. 1981, Scotland) both make new works for Light and Language, responding to the unique architecture of Lismore Castle.

Nancy Holt, Electrical System (1982)
Steel conduit, sockets, light bulbs
Installed at David Bellman Gallery, Toronto, Canada.
During her lifetime Holt presented two versions of this sculpture, preceded in August 1981 by a studio version at her 799 Greenwich Street, New York City loft. In January 1982 Electrical System (For Thomas Edison) was presented at John Weber Gallery, New York City, and in February 1982 Electrical System II: Bellman Circuit at the David Bellman Gallery, seen above.

Art © Holt/Smithson Foundation, licensed by VAGA at ARS, New York

Archived News

"Nancy Holt / Inside Outside" at Bildmuseet

We are very pleased to announce the exhibition Nancy Holt / Inside Outside launches this June, produced by Bildmuseet, one of Sweden’s foremost contemporary art venues. The exhibition explores the artist’s rich artistic legacy through a selection of works spanning 1967 to 1992. This is the most ambitious exhibition of her work to date. Perceptions and demarcations of being "inside" and "outside" guide this survey exhibition.

Robert Smithson works in "The Power of Wonder" at Museum unter Tage in Bochum, Germany

Works by Robert Smithson will be included in the group exhibition The Power of Wonder: New Materialisms in Contemporary Art at Museum unter Tage in Bochum, Germany. 

Two artworks that Robert Smithson originally made during his time in Germany in 1969 will be on view in the exhibition: Mirror Displacement: Indoors (1969) and Essen Earth  and Mirrors (for Bernd and Hilla Becher) (1969).

"Second Site" by James Nisbet

Author and art historian James Nisbet has recently written a new book titled Second Site, which explores "how environmental change and the passage of time transform the meaning of site-specific art." Second Site examines the effect of changing conditions on a number of site-specific artworks, including both Nancy Holt's Sun Tunnels (1973-76) and Robert Smithson's 

Discussions On "Sound As Sculpture"

A significant selection of audio works by Nancy Holt are currently on view in the group exhibition Sound as Sculpture at The Warehouse Dallas

The Warehouse is hosting a series of discussions on the exhibition Sound As Sculpture, including one upcoming discussion on Nancy Holt's sound works with Lisa Le Feuvre and James Nisbet this Friday, March 18.

Tuesday Texts: Chapter Three

We are delighted to announce that throughout February we will be publishing a third chapter of our Tuesday Text Series as part of our ongoing Scholarly Text Program, which invites thinkers to focus on a single artwork by Holt and/or Smithson.

Every Tuesday we will publish a text to our website that includes images selected by the author, a short bibliography, citation reference, and endnotes pointing to the author’s references.